PRESS STATEMENT By People’s National Congress Reform Thursday, 30 August 2007 Media Centre Congress Place, Sophia




SUMMARY:
• The mismanagement of the economy or, some may say, the lack of effective management thereof, by the PPP/C Administration, is made all the more stark by the fact that they inherited a buoyant economy from the PNC Administration in 1992;
• The PNCR repeats its call for the Government, apart from taking firm and effective action to protect the Guyanese consumer, to immediately institute a substantial downward revision of the VAT, to, say 8%, so that some measure of relief can be brought to our suffering people;
• The crime situation continues to spiral out of control as the PPP/C dithers. And if that party is not dithering, it is engaging in what the Stabroek News has called blather. Neither is good for this country;
• The PNCR is saddened by the passing of one of its loyal and committed members, Mrs. Agnes Bend-Kirton.

THE ECONOMY

The PNCR is concerned that the Guyana economy continues to deteriorate. The last year of real growth in the economy was 1998. Since then, there has been a pronounced downward spiral which has been captured in the statistics made available by the International Monetary Fund (IMF):

Guyana: Selected Economic Indicators
1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004
Real GDP (factor cost)
3.0
-1.4
2.3
1.1
-0.6
1.6

As these figures indicate, the economy has been in negative territory on several occasions. In fact, in any normal society a recession would have been declared and the emergency measures be put in place.

The consequences of the foregoing are there for all to see: the rise in the cost of living; increasing levels of unemployment which has hit young people and women hardest; rising levels of poverty with its concomitant increase in the visible numbers of street children, street families and homeless people; as well as in hundreds of people, both young and old, travelling throughout this nation looking for work and/or food. The situation has also resulted in increased crime as the standard of living of the Guyanese people continues to decline, with the growth of the numbers of Guyanese living on the margins of survival.

The mismanagement of the economy or, some may say, the lack of effective management thereof, by the PPP/C Administration, is made all the more stark by the fact that they inherited a buoyant economy from the PNC Administration in 1992.

The country report for Guyana by the IDB tells the story of the economy the PPP inherited. It stated in 1992 that “… Guyana is clearly on the road to global recovery … Private Sector Enterprises, both national and international have been appearing more and more, with important investment in the mining sector … The real growth of the economy is that of 6.1 per cent for 1991.” This the PPP has squandered.

In addition, before leaving office, the PNC Government had attracted funding for all of the major sectors of the economy and had developed realistic programmes to employ these resources for the sustained growth and development of the Guyana economy.

It is time the PPP/C face reality. There is the urgent need to take emergency measures to revitalise the economy by attracting large productive investments and, thereby, creating greater employment and incomes which would serve to restore hope, especially for young people, that there are, job opportunities available.

Guyana has a sufficiency of economic expertise to undertake the task of drawing up the relevant national economic emergency programme for this nation. A convincing PPP/C Government commitment to the early updating of the now dated National Economic Development Strategy would be a good starting point to mobilise national stakeholder support. The interest and the will is there, in the wider society, to undertake the task.

It is abysmally poor governance on the part of the PPP/C Administration that is responsible for the present failure to generate sustained growth and development. That would certainly lead to sustainable poverty reduction!

VALUE ADDED TAX

To compound the current dismal economic situation, the Value Added Tax (VAT) is an additional burden on the people of Guyana. The Party has already commented on the widespread rise in prices which continues to cause a lot of economic and social hardships for the Guyanese people.

On this occasion, the Party wishes to note that, regardless of the specious reasons given for the rise in prices, the fact of the matter is that the VAT is not revenue neutral as the Government claimed. In fact, their own figures in the public domain suggest that the Government collected revenues which are 35% higher than their projected expectations. This indicates that the excessively high introductory 16% VAT rate is having a repressive effect, particularly on the already working and unemployed poor.

The PNCR has more than anecdotal evidence which suggests that families are suffering grievously as a result of the VAT. The suffering is a direct result of the increase in the prices of basic commodities, even for those items which are supposedly zero rated. In addition, the Party notes that there is an increase in the scarcity of some basic commodities, such as onions, garlic and split peas. This has further resulted in unreasonable and exploitative increases in the prices of those scarce commodities. The Party notes here also that wheaten flour, which is supposed to be zero rated, now costs significantly more.

The PNCR repeats its call for the Government, apart from taking firm and effective action to protect the Guyanese consumer, to immediately institute a substantial downward revision of the VAT, to, say 8%, so that some measure of relief can be brought to our suffering people.

An urgent meeting of stakeholders must be held to consider this matter to determine whether the rate should not be reduce to this figure and what necessary adjustments could be made in the administration of the VAT.

CRIME

The crime situation continues to spiral out of control as the PPP/C dithers. And if that party is not dithering, it is engaging in what the Stabroek News has called blather. Neither is good for this country.

While all of this is going on, prisoners seem to escape from several penal institutions with an ease that is alarming. The solutions lies in the demonstration of the political will, instead of empty rhetoric, to provide the required resources and make the necessary institutional changes to strengthen and reform the affected institutions, by the implementation of the many recommendations, from the Disciplined Forces Commission, among others.

Piracy is rampant on the Corentyne coast; criminals are committing crimes with impunity while the PPP/C seems immobilized by belief in its own rhetoric, paper commissions and community groups. In the meantime, the lives of the Guyanese people are being shattered by crime.

The PPP/C must take full responsibility for this situation because, despite the efforts of the PNCR and other stakeholders, that Party continues to refuse to do what is obvious and commonsensical: implement the decisions of the various studies done on the crime situations in Guyana, such as the Discipline Forces Commission and the Symonds Report, inter alia.

It is no longer acceptable to engage in empty talk. This is a time for action!



THE DEATH OF AGNES BEND-KIRTON

The PNCR is saddened by the passing of one of its loyal and committed members, Mrs. Agnes Bend-Kirton. The Party extends condolences to her immediate family, relatives and friends.

The Party recalls Mrs. Bend-Kirton as one of those women who rose to prominence as a result of Article 29 of the 1980 Constitution. That Article sought to give women a greater role in Guyana’s socio-economic development. Mrs. Bend-Kirton became Parliamentary Secretary in the Ministry of Housing and worked hard to ensure the upliftment and empowerment of women. She was also an Executive member of the Women’s Revolutionary Socialist Movement (WRSM) and President of the Conference on the Affairs and Status of Women in Guyana. Mrs. Bend-Kirton was also involved in the Global Movement for Women, attending the Copenhagen UN Mid-Decade Conference in 1980. She also served as President of the Caribbean Women’s Association.

The Party wishes to place on record its appreciation for her services as a member, an activist and someone who cared deeply about the improvement of the lives of the Guyanese people.

The funeral service of Mrs. Agnes Bend Kirton will take place on Friday, August 31, 2007 at the Restoration Temple on Church Ave., Brooklyn, New York and also at the Tropical Gardens on Schenectady Ave., Brooklyn, New York. Another service will take place on Saturday, September 1, 2007 at the Center of Excellence on Ralph Ave., Copiague, New York.


People's National Congress Reform
Congress Place, Sophia
Georgetown, Guyana
Thursday 30 August 2007